58 years after, Enugu State Central Library in ruins




By Gideon Arinze from Enugu

Feature

Libraries are the avant garde of knowledge. They are edifices which house diverse kinds of facilities to enhance learning and books on a variety of subjects.

Students visit libraries to prepare for exams or tackle assignment. Researchers equally visit libraries to undertake researches so as to discover ideas or to expand their knowledge.

To ensure that the mind is better developed, library environments are usually calm and inviting.

Sadly, a visit to the Enugu State Central Library located along Ogui road reveals the extent of decay in the educational sector. The library is a far cry from what a library should be. The structures are dilapidated and facilities are in a decrepit state.

The central library was established for the old Eastern Region by UNESCO in 1958. It was the first public library in the whole of Africa.

According to the Acting Director, Enugu State Library Services, Mr. Jude, Offor, the Library at its inception had enough facilities which enhanced learning and promoted research. He add: "Then, People were trained outside the country. They were sponsored to attend workshops and improve their knowledge on diverse fields." He added that there were lots of books covering virtually everything subject. As a result, it played host to many individuals who came around to read. 

Now, the story has changed. The library is no longer what it used to be. The environment looks deserted, with surrounding bushes and outdated structures. Students hardly come around to read as the façade alone serves as a disincentive.

Inside the library are antiquated chairs and tables. Some of them are spoilt thus making it uncomfortable for users.



Everywhere looks cramped up and the ventilation systems are not working. When there are examinations and the number of students increase, it becomes hell studying inside the library. As a result, most students resort to reading insert trees.

A look at the shelves leaves much to be desired as they are scarcely equipped. There are no current books on different subjects. Instead what you find are books of the 1950s, 60s, the 70s and the 80s.

According to one of the users, Franklin Igwe, the library is unorganized and lacks books on several topics

"I have come here severally to make research on financial management but I could not find anything related." he said.

Unfortunately, because of the dearth of textbooks on different subjects, most users come to the library with their books to study.

In the words of one of Nigeria"s foremost publisher, Muhtar Bakari said, "people who could read would read if you make literature affordable and available to them.”

Most of the offices visited had ceilings, yet water penetrates and disturbs the workers. Some have refrigerators which are not functional.

Amaka Okwuiyi is a staff at the central Library. She could not hide her displeasure with the present state of the library.

According to her, the library is faced with lots of challenges. "We don't have light here. There is no water. There are no functioning ventilation system," she said.

The malaise according to Mr. offor is attributed to governments lukewarm attitude towards the library.

"We are under parastatals and not ministries. So, we receive subvention which we channel to the payment of our workers instead of channelling them to other needs"
"Currently, some workers are owed a backlog of subvention of seven years amounting to about 50 million" The retirees are not spared the ordeal as they are owed allowance of about N45 million." He said.

Consequent upon this is the dearth of workers due to backlog of salary to be paid, hence there are  vacant offices.

With the significant leap in information and communication technology, most libraries now operate e- library which guarantees easy access to information.
But in the Enugu State Central Library, such is not obtained as there are no working computers

The South Eastern states libraries which took off from Enugu operate e- library service. A feat that is laudable.

According to Mr. Offor "The ten computers presently in the library were donated by the WAWA women in Texas USA". It is part of efforts to awaken the ICT centre which has not been working" he stated.

The state of the Library leaves much to be desired and betrays the real essence for which it was established by UNESCO.

The central library is located along the road. Surrounding it are bus terminals which have loud speakers mounted atop tress. At intervals, conductors scream destinations, thus constituting nuisance.

The library users and the staff also battle with frequent smells which come from urine and defication of passersby.

Urgent steps need to be taken to address the challenges and give the library a facelift to meet the global standard.

The Akwa Ibon State Library for instance has digitised and electronic materials that can be accessed by users through the Online Public Access Catalogue. It houses books on a wide range of subjects. It also have state-of-the-art video conferencing hall, e- library facilities among others. That makes learning interesting.

The state government should ensure that the library is well funded and the structures rebuilt. There is the need to also make provision for enough textbooks and other facilities that ease learning.
Workers deserve better working condition. The government should move them into ministries so they can be receiving their salaries as and when due.

There is also the need to partner with Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) and private individuals who are willing to help uplift the educational system. The Farafina Trust for instance is a non-profit organisation established to among other things promote reading culture through the provision of books

According to Chimamanda Adichie, one of its pioneers, Farafina Trust has dreams of building libraries, and refinishing libraries that already exist and providing books for state schools that don't have anything in their libraries.

Knowledge is power and an informed mind thinks critically. According to Diogene, The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.

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